Genre, Discourse, and Poetics in Contemporary, Colonial, and Classic Maya Literature
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University Press of Colorado
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Since the mid-1980s, incredible strides have been made in the linguistic decipherment of the Maya hieroglyphic script. Historical figures have emerged from the linguistically mute archaeological record, illuminated by narratives about ancient political machinations and dynastic...
Part I. Finding Continuities in Maya Poetics and Literature
1. The Narrative Structure of Chol Folktales: One Thousand Years of Literary Tradition
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After listening to Chol storytellers for nearly thirty years, we came to understand that there is a narrative style, a canon that is followed by the best narrators and only marginally controlled by those who are not. Over and over again we noted the same features in stories told by...
Part II. Establishing Traditions: Hieroglyphic Literature and Poetics
2. Syntactic Inversion (Hyperbaton) as a Literary Device in Maya Hieroglyphic Texts
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To identify and appreciate a figure that is based precisely on syntactical alternation, we must first know the normal syntactic structure of a given language, in this case the Maya hieroglyphic language. Syntax studies have a long tradition in studies of Maya hieroglyphic writing. In many cases these studies have anticipated...
3. Poetic Tenacity: A Diachronic Study of Kennings in Mayan Languages
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The poetic and literary aspects of Maya hieroglyphic texts are just beginning to come into focus. In this chapter I trace the diachronic use of one of the most elegant poetic forms among the Maya: the diphrastic kenning—the pairing of two distinct elements to produce a metaphorical...
4. The History, Rhetoric, and Poetics of Three Palenque Narratives
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The ruins of the ancient city of Palenque now lie largely concealed in the forested foothills of the Sierra de Palenque. However, Palenque was once a prosperous Classic period polity at the western edge of the Maya world. From a protected hillside plateau, the city...
5. Understanding Discourse: Beyond Couplets and Calendrics First
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The study of discourse structure lies somewhere between grammar and meaning. It concerns devices such as topics, fronting, parallel phrases (couplets), highlighting, and narrative genres. These devices are used to signal what a text or a discourse is about and what the reader or listener can...
6. Drawing and Designing with Words
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When the signs of the Maya script are locked into a relationship with syntax, the reader converts clusters, rows, and columns of marks into syllables, words, phrases, and sentences, reversing the sequence followed by the writer. There may be times when the process of reading a text...
7. Narrative Structure and the Drum Major Headdress
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Classic period inscriptions refer to the accession of a lord into the office of king in a variety of ways. One accession statement refers to the fastening of a white headband on the new king (k’ahlaj “fasten, enclose, bind, or tie,” sak huun “white headband”) (Grube, cited in...
Part III. From Glyphs to Letters: Colonial Maya Poetics and Literature
8. Creation Narratives in the Postclassic Maya Codices
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Narratives in the Postclassic screenfold books known as the Dresden, Madrid, and Paris Codices have received relatively little attention in the past, although scholars have recently begun focusing on them in more detail. They provide an important source of information about deities...
9. Some Historical Continuities in Lowland Maya Magical Speech Genres: Keying Shamanic Performance
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The Yucatecan Maya genre of u thanil literally means “the word of” but is perhaps better translated as “incantation” (Gubler 1996; Roys 1965). U thanil are often performed for the purposes of curing, although incantations related to other domains of life, such as fire drilling and...
10. Appropriating Sacred Speech: Aesthetics and Authority in Colonial Ch’olti’
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The task of religious conversion is not simply a matter of belief. It also involves the inculcation of new practices, a new aesthetic. To the true convert, much that was sublime must become diabolical; many of the actions and thoughts daily life so firmly inscribes into our bodies have to be...
11. Poetics in the Popol Wuj
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In this chapter I will show how poetry and prose are interwoven in a text to provide fluency to verbal art. I will also discuss specific characteristics of parallelism as found in the Popol Wuj (or Popol Vuh), arguing that parallelism is not only the contiguity of two lines but that it extends further...
12. The Use of Chiasmus by the Ancient K’iche’ Maya
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The presence of chiasmus and other poetic constructions may be useful in determining the relative antiquity of ancient writings composed by the K’iche’ Maya of Guatemala in the early Colonial era. A chiasm is created when in a given text the first element or concept of...
Part IV. Keepers of Tradition: Modern Maya Poetics and Literature
13. Before Poetry, the Words: A Metalinguistic Digression
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As Don Rigoberto, a fifty-year-old exceptional storyteller, recounted a long narrative about the ancient history of the region of Rabinal (Guatemala), the etymology of the name of a particular lineage puzzled him. In the middle of the narrative, something else also emerged...
14. Humor through Yucatec Mayan Stories
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Yucatec Maya people have a bold and bawdy sense of humor, especially when expressed through stories about authority. Humorous, slapstick narratives about wayward priests, statues that magically come to life and run away from irate husbands, and descriptions of...
15. A Comparison of Narrative Style in Mopan and Itzaj Mayan
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Itzaj and Mopan Maya are members of the Yukatekan branch of the Mayan language family spoken in the Maya lowlands of Guatemala and Belize. The distribution of Yukatekan languages at the time of contact is shown on map 15.1. As indicated on the map, Itzaj and Mopan territories...
16. The Lights Dim but Don’t Go Out on the Stars of Yucatec Maya Oral Literature
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The purpose of this study is to become more familiar with the most popular characters in contemporary Yucatec Maya oral literature and the symbols and motifs that help them accomplish their objectives. Focus will highlight the types of actors and actresses in this literature...
17. To Speak the Words of Colonial Tzotzil
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In this chapter I present a variety of expressions found in The Great Tzotzil Dictionary of Santo Domingo Zinacantán, which I will give in literal translations of the Tzotzil, followed by their meaning in English. I begin with Tzotzil kinds of speech and words that...
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Page Count: 448
Illustrations: 20 b&w photos, 33 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012